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Viral hepatitis: Clinical
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Acute viral hepatitis lasts for less than six months and the individual has nausea, vomiting, and right upper quadrant pain. Sometimes if there’s a high total bilirubin, it can lead to jaundice, pruritus, dark urine, and clay- colored stools.
Chronic viral hepatitis lasts for more than six months and the individual can sometimes be asymptomatic. Other times, chronic viral hepatitis can cause fever, fatigue, and loss of appetite, as well as extrahepatic symptoms like arthralgias and skin rashes.
On the physical examination, with acute hepatitis, there’s typically hepatomegaly, but with chronic hepatitis, the liver may feel normal on palpation, and if there’s cirrhosis, the lower margin of the liver can feel irregular.
In acute hepatitis, levels of AST, ALT are over 100 international units per liter and sometimes the alkaline phosphatase and total bilirubin are elevated as well. If the total bilirubin is above 2 milligrams per deciliter, then an individual can appear jaundiced.
With chronic hepatitis, elevation of AST and ALT persists for more than six months but levels don’t usually rise above 400 international units per liter. In addition, total bilirubin and alkaline phosphatase levels can also be elevated.
During viral hepatitis, medications that are metabolized by the liver, like aspirin, or medications that can damage the liver, like acetaminophen, should be used with caution, because they can further damage the liver.
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